Monday, October 25, 2010

Airborne animals

True stories about animals getting loose in the cabins of airplanes - a mouse, a marmoset, a pig (!), and most recently a hamster - can be as amusing as the lambasted 2006 movie (which has its own factual counterparts). But an August flight from Kinshasa to Bandundu in the Democratic Republic of Congo took a frightening and tragic turn as a result of an animal stowaway. A Filair Airlines Let L410 turbolet (example pictured, 1st image) with 18 passengers and 3 crewmembers crashed into a house about 2km from its destination. The accident (2nd image) was originally attributed to the plane running out of fuel, but the real cause was revealed to investigators by the lone survivor.

An unnamed passenger hid a crocodile in a large duffel bag with the intent of selling it. Shortly before the plane reached the airport, the animal escaped. Following the frightened flight attendant, the panicked passengers stampeded toward the cockpit, throwing the small plane off balance. Despite the desperate efforts of the pilots - British first officer Chris Wilson, 39, and Belgian owner of Filair Danny Philemotte, 62 - to stabilize the aircraft, it flipped over in mid-air, killing 19 of the 21 on board on impact and the 20th later in the hospital. The crocodile itself survived the crash, but was cut up with a machete by rescuers.

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